The government is going to withdraw its lawsuit filed last month against Moneaksekar Khmer editor-in-chief Dam Sith after the opposition-affiliated newsman issued a letter of apology to Prime Minister Hun Sen and promised to stop putting out his newspaper, officials said Thursday.
Accused of defamation, disinformation and incitement in a June 5 lawsuit by the government, Mr Sith learned on Tuesday that he was to be questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court next week over the content of several articles published between February and May of this year.
In a Wednesday letter to the premier, Mr Sith pleaded for the lawsuit to be dropped and apologized profusely.
“I ask the permission to demonstrate deep respect and bow down to apologize, with the purest mind, to Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Decho [Hun Sen] and all senior leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party that I have previously committed inappropriate acts again and again affecting the reputation, and most seriously, of Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Decho and leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party through my Moneaksekar Khmer newspaper,” wrote the editor in chief, who is also a member of the Sam Rainsy Party board of directors.
“I, now, have nothing to depend on in order to escape the charges by the court,” Mr Sith goes on to write.
The editor then asks the prime minister, whom he refers to as “compassionate and forgiving,” to help him escape being charged by the court, and in return promising “not to continue publishing Moneaksekar Khmer anymore.”
Contacted on Thursday, Mr Sith declined to comment.
Mr Sith was previously thrown in pretrial detention for a week in June 2008 after his paper published public statements made by SRP leader Sam Rainsy accusing Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong of links to the Khmer Rouge regime. After the editor apologizing to the minister, the charges were dropped upon the behest of the prime minister.
Long Dara, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the government, said Thursday that he saw Mr Sith’s letter and was in the process of writing a request to withdraw the complaint from the Phnom Penh court.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] agreed that I make a letter to withdraw the lawsuit, now I am doing it,” Mr Dara said. “[Mr Sith] has admitted wrongdoing in what he wrote previously; so in the name of the royal government, normally, the royal government doesn’t want to have any problems with any state and private institutions.”
Mr Dara declined to discuss in detail what Moneaksekar Khmer articles had offended the government. “He affected a lot, including as individuals and the institutions,” Mr Dara said, adding that the stories had allegedly hurt the reputations of Mr Hun Sen, Cabinet Minister Sok An, Senate and CPP President Chea Sim, and former RCAF Commander-in-chief Ke Kim Yan.
“There are lot in the files, but I just want to say briefly,” he added.
Municipal Deputy Prosecutor Sok Kalyan, who is in charge of the Dam Sith case, didn’t answer repeated telephone calls Thursday.
SRP Secretary-General Ke Sovannroth declined to comment about Mr Sith’s sweeping apology. “It is his right to make a decision. It is his personal problem, his decision is personal,” the Siem Reap lawmaker said.
Ms Sovannroth added, however, that the government should step back and consider the state of freedom of expression in the country. “I want the Royal Government to reconsider about the recent problems—that it has been stepping backwards—so that it be re-strengthened for the respect of democratic principles,” she said.